Our eco-justice team reminds us of just a few of God’s creatures endangered by Climate Change
Akikiki, Hawaii is home to a type of native honeycreeper. Hawaiian honeycreepers are a group of small songbirds. Many have been driven to extinction since the first humans arrived in Hawaii, with extinctions increasing over the last 2 centuries following the European discovery of the islands, with habitat destruction and especially invasive species being the main causes.
Elkhorn Coral is one of the most important corals in the Caribbean. It forms dense groups called “thickets” in very shallow water. These provide important habitats for other reef animals, especially fish. The greatest threat to elkhorn coral is ocean warming, which causes the corals to release the algae that live in their tissue and provide them food, usually causing death. Other threats to elkhorn coral are ocean acidification (decrease in water pH caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) that makes it harder for them to build their skeleton, unsustainable fishing practices that deplete the herbivores (animals that feed on plants) that keep the reef clean, and land-based sources of pollution that impacts the clear, low nutrient waters in which they thrive.
The Bog Turtle is North America’s smallest turtle, growing only to 4.5 inches in length. It is classified as federally-threatened on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species List. Habitat loss and fragmentation and forest succession represent the primary reasons for the decline of this species. In the past, bog turtles could move to nearby habitat if conditions changed. However, remaining habitats have become more isolated because of land development.
The Bull Trout is listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act throughout its range in the contiguous United States. Bull trout reproduction requires cold water and very low amounts of silt, both of which are negatively impacted by road building and logging. Additionally, its need to migrate throughout river systems may be hindered by impassible fish barriers, such as dams.
In the lower 48 states, Canada Lynx are considered threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Lynx were often trapped for their valuable fur during the last century, and this practice continues in Canada. Today, aggressive logging, road-building and development of lynx habitat have severely fragmented their living space. Snowmobile trails and roads pose problems for lynx because these packed-snow pathways give high-country access to cougar and coyote (which can eat lynx), and bobcat (which compete with lynx).
Pacific Salmon are cold-water fish, and die when exposed for very long to freshwater temperatures above about 20º C. (72º F.) Global warming has pushed the average summer temperatures of many west coast river systems above that mortality threshold, killing many fish. Global climate change is also diminishing total river flows throughout the northwest and California, as well as changing the basic hydrology that these fish evolved with. Depleted genetic diversity, as well as accelerated habitat loss due to human development, has reduced their ability to respond to these stresses. Changing ocean conditions, including ocean acidification, are causing additional stresses to these populations from global warming.
Leatherback Sea Turtles face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment. The greatest of these threats worldwide are incidental capture in fishing gear (bycatch), hunting of turtles, and collection of eggs for human consumption. The Pacific leatherback turtle populations are most at-risk of extinction.
Grizzly Bears in the contiguous United States are currently protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, as there are less than 1,500 grizzlies left in the lower 48 states. Human-bear conflict remains the largest threat to the North American grizzlies, as well as the loss of major food sources and suitable habitats due to climate change and development.
The main threat to the Flatwoods Salamander is loss of habitat. Pine flatwoods-wiregrass habitats have suffered rapid loss in the southeast due to agriculture. Continued loss of habitat could cause extensive population loss. In addition, the lowering of water tables due to climate change is elminating the places where the salamander’s eggs mature.
Two-thirds of the world’s Polar Bears could be extinct by 2050 if greenhouse gas-fueled global warming keeps melting their Arctic sea-ice habitat.
Monarch Butterflies are threatened by deforestation of wintering forests in Mexico, disruptions to their migration caused by climate change, and the loss of native plants (including milkweed species but also all nectar-producing native plants) along their migratory corridors.
American Pikas are suffering because climate change has brought higher temperatures to their western mountain homes. Pikas have already disappeared from more than one-third of their previously known habitat in Oregon and Nevada.
2 responses to “Peace and Justice”
Thanks for the review of God’s creatures losing life because of developers and human denials
Beautiful pictures of plants and animals that I want to stay around, Judy. I remember my neighbor and I listening to the bob whites in her yard, only 35 years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever hear that again, and I miss it. It doesn’t have to be this way.